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Einstein Study Aims to Identify Heart Risk in Seniors Who May Have Diabetes

April 21, 2004 -- (BRONX, NY) -- Mauri Hodges is a woman of action. She and her circle of friends, which includes Loretta Richards, epitomize the active senior citizen who embraces life in the “golden years” and all that it has to offer.

“I'm always on the go. It's a full-time job, maintaining yourself,” she says.

Among the activities Ms. Hodges and her friends take part in is medical research. Both she and Ms. Richards recently participated in The Heart ROADS Study at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. The study, which first assesses whether participants may have diabetes, also aims to determine heart risk in older adults with the disease. Those who are found to have diabetes receive further evaluation with regard to heart disease.

Ms. Hodges, who learned of the Heart ROADS study through her participation in another Einstein study -- The Women’s Health Initiative -- felt her own family history was reason enough to take part in Heart ROADS. (Heart ROADS stands for Heart Risk in Older Adults with Diabetes Study.)

“My mother was diagnosed with diabetes at age 72. Since I’m now around the same age, diabetes was an obvious concern for me,” she says. “I also felt that, like with the Women’s Health Initiative, if I could contribute to something that helps others, it’s a good thing to do.”

Ms. Hodges learned that she did not have diabetes, nor did she have any indicators for the disease.

“They did suggest that I try to drop a few pounds, because being overweight can definitely contribute to the future onset of diabetes. Still, it felt good to know that all the things I do to be healthy seem to be working,” says Ms. Hodges, who listed eating well, exercising, and following recommendations for a healthy lifestyle.

“Taking part in the study was an excellent experience,” says Ms. Richards, one of three friends that Ms. Hodges helped recruit to the study. “The doctors treated us royally and took very good care of us while they took our blood and administered our electrocardiograms. It was painless and it was free.”

Like Ms. Hodges, Ms. Richards had a mother who was diagnosed with diabetes later in life, in her 60s. And she herself will turn 69 this year. She and Ms. Hodges are part of a group of friends who get together frequently. “If it's not illegal, immoral, or fattening, we’ll do it,” she says of their activities.
Their participation in Heart ROADS is helping researchers at Einstein learn more about mild diabetes, which is very common in older adults and often goes undiagnosed.

“Many older individuals with diabetes are not even aware they have the disease,” says Dr. Jill Crandall, principal investigator of the Einstein study. “They also can develop heart disease and are at higher risk of developing complications from cardiovascular problems. Through our study, we hope to learn more about these risk factors and whether treatment of mild diabetes can reduce the risk of heart disease.”

The Heart ROADS study is still accepting volunteers. An individual is eligible for the study if he/she is age 65 or older and is not currently being treated for diabetes. Participants receive a free blood test for diabetes. Based on the results of this test, individuals may be invited back for additional studies, which include blood tests and an electrocardiogram. Those found to have diabetes might also receive medication as part of the study. For more information or to make an appointment, contact Migdalia Reid, study coordinator at 718-405-8271.

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Facts About Diabetes and Older Adults

Diabetes, especially in the early stages or "mild form", usually has no symptoms -- which is why it’s important to be tested. In fact:
  • Almost 1 in 4 people over age 65 have diabetes.
  • Up to one-half of people with diabetes don’t know they have it.
  • Even mild diabetes increases the risk of heart disease.
Complications stemming from diabetes are usually seen after many years of (uncontrolled) diabetes. Early detection of mild disease is needed, particularly when there may be no symptoms, in order to prevent the late complications. Careful control of high blood sugar can prevent many of the complications of diabetes, including eye disease, kidney disease and nerve damage. Even so, did you know that:
  • Diabetes is the most common cause for blindness in the U.S.
  • Diabetes is the most common cause for kidney failure (leading to dialysis or transplantation) in the U.S.
  • Diabetes is the most common cause for lower extremity amputations (other than accidents) in the U.S.
  • People with diabetes have up to 5 times greater risk of heart disease
  • All of these complications are preventable through early detection and appropriate treatment.
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